Energy Security in Ukraine
The second series of input papers for the project “Eastern Partnership Plus” deals with the question of the dependence of the three associated countries on energy imports and a better integration into the European energy market.
Olena Pavlenko, DiXi Group
The destruction of Ukraine’s energy sector has been a goal in Russia’s war against Ukraine from the start. This involves, firstly, the attempt to wreak the maximum destruction on the country’s energy infrastructure (power grids and gas pipelines) with the aim of cutting off the energy supply of as many Ukrainian consumers as possible. There have been days during the war when as many as a million consumershad no access to electricity, though Ukrainian energy companies were able to re-establishe service swiftly.Secondly, the seizure of strategic energy facilities – the Kakhovka HPP, the Chernobyl NPP and the Zaporizhzhya NPP, has been a priority of Russian forces. The behaviour of Russian troops at the captured facilities makes it clear that they do not understand how dangerous the consequences of their actions there could be – they walked around in the areas contaminated by high radiation at the Chernobyl station, andRussian units have fired rockets over the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant at very low altitudes. It is unlikely that Russia plans to fully develop these facilities – rather, its behaviour suggests that its seizure of powerplants is aimed at blackmailing Ukraine and the world. Thirdly, Russia has stepped up the frequency of its cyber-attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities. The number of cyber-attacks has tripled during first phase of the war. There were more than 300,000 cyber-attacks during the first 80 days of the war. Ukraine has amassed anincredible amount of experience in cyber warfare and is now in a position to train other countries, including EU countries, in cyber defence. Fourthly, Russia has tried to leave Ukraine completely without fuel. In addition to blocking fuel imports, it destroyed many of Ukraine’s fuel storage facilities. This was the most painful blow. Ukraine is only now returning to a stable fuel situation. As a result of Russian aggression, as of the fifth of June, almost 5% of the installed electricity generating capacity had been destroyed, and 35% of generating capacity is now in territories occupied by Russia.
Despite the doubts of some, Ukraine’s energy system has shown a high level of resilience in the face of Russia’s war. Ukraine’s electricity system was disconnected from Russia and Belarus on the day that the war broke out. For three weeks, it supplied electricity to consumers while operating in isolation, giving the lie to pessimistic predictions from many European experts. On 16 March 2022 Ukraine’s electricity system was synchronized with the European ENTSO‑E system, and on 7 June 2022, the EU transmission system operators agreed to open commercial trading between Ukraine and the EU. The Ukrainian grid operator Ukrenergo believes that exporting electricity to the EU may become one of its most profitable economic activities, as prices in Ukraine today are three times lower than those in Europe. This will help to reduce the illiquidity of the Ukrainian energy market and attract investment to it in the future.
Ukraine has also shown a high level of resilience in the gas sector. Despite repeated cases of destruction of local gas pipelines, Ukrainian companies have been able to resume supplying gas to Ukrainian consumerspromptly. Ukraine was able to make it through the heating season successfully. It is important to note that Russia has consistently refrained from firing on the gas pipelines that transport gas to the EU. This is further evidence of the importance that Russia attaches to maintaining gas supplies, and it also helps explain why Putin was so eager to launch Nord Stream 2 – the availability of the bypass pipeline would give the Russian forces free reign for shelling strategic Ukrainian facilities in the gas sector and beyond. At this point, I wish to point out that Ukrainian experts consistently emphasized this risk at public discussions in Germany and in other countries during the construction of Nord Stream 2.
Turning now to oil and oil products: before the war, Ukraine was dependant on imports from Russia and Belarus for more than 60% of its petroleum needs. Of the three sectors discussed here, the oil sector proved to be the least resilient. Belarus and Russia blocked oil and fuel exports to Ukraine immediately after the war began. In response, the Ukrainian government began to import more of these products from the EU. However, Russia has attempted to destroy Ukraine’s capacities for refining and for storing oil and other fuels – Russian missiles have wiped out 27 oil depots in different regions of Ukraine. Russia also fired 20 missiles at theKremenchug refinery plant, rendering it inoperable. The country has lost its infrastructure. To facilitate fuel imports from the EU, the government has liberalized prices on the oil market and simplified all import procedures. In June, there was a severe shortage of fuel in Ukraine, but the situation grew more stable toward the end of the month. It is difficult to say how Ukraine might have prevented the crisis and protected its infrastructure to avoid the physical destruction of depos and refineries, but one of the biggest lessons learned with regard to the oil sector is that Ukraine must never again become dependent on fuel imports from Russia and Belarus.
Facing the threat of a long-term war, the government is now focused on the rapid resumption of operations in the energy system. Today, information on the share of total electricity production generated by particular energy sources is not released due to security concerns, but it is known that nuclear power together with wind‑, solar- and hydro-power account for almost 90% of total electricity production (meaning that electricity generation from coal is just over 10%). Nuclear power remains the main source for electricity production, despite the occupation of two nuclear power plants. The Chernobyl plant was liberated in early April, while the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant is still under Russian occupation. This is the first act of this kind of aggression in the world; the Ukrainian government has already described Russia’s actions as “nuclear terrorism”. This situation demands an additional response from the world, which should seek to limit furtherdevelopment of the nuclear sector in Russia and prevent the sector from sharing its technologies abroad. This situation has also shown that the IAEA is not able to act in a truly effective manner to ensure nuclear safety in the world: there is a need to discuss deep reform of such bodies in the future.
To reduce Ukraine’s dependence on Russian nuclear energy, the state-owned Energoatom and the US company Westinghouse have signed an agreement in June 2022 to increase the number of AP1000 nuclear power units in Ukraine from 5 to 9. There is also an agreement to increase the volume of American nuclear fuel supplies to cover the needs of all Ukrainian NPPs. In addition, the companies confirmed their intention to establish a Westinghouse engineering and technical centre in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s coal reserves were at a low level as it entered the 2021–2022 heating season, and many experts had criticized the government for failing to prepare effectively for the winter. However, Ukraine built up its reserves quite quickly during the wintertime and as it prepared for synchronization with ENTSO‑E. As of the beginning of the war, the country’s coal reserves were in line with planned levels, but coal production fell by 30% after the war started and Russia destroyed several mines. In preparation for the upcoming heating season, the Ukrainian government has banned all exports of coal, oil fuel and gas. It expects to have amassed 2–3 milliontons of coal in its warehouses by October 2022. There is also another radical change that has taken place in the coal sector: unlike in previous years, there is no public confrontation today between the government and the companies in this sector, including private energy companies.
The renewable energy sector was also badly damaged during the war. As of 5 June, about 30% of the country’s solar-power capacity and over 90% of its wind-power capacity had been destroyed. Also, renewable energy producers have not been receiving the feed-in payments they are entitled to under the Green Tariff scheme (only 10% is being paid out according to some estimates), driving them into insolvency. And because many of the solar and wind generation facilities are located in the east and south of Ukraine, many have come under fire and lost capacity due to missile damage.
In the gas sector, Ukraine now consumes almost as much gas as it produces, due to a rapid fall in consumption, of 30% or even more, after the start of the war. Ukrainian gas storage facilities still held about 9 billion cubic metres at the end of the heating season. Ukraine has not yet imported gas from the EU. This will likely change as the country begins to prepare for the heating season. Though, Naftogaz believes that Ukraine will not need to import large quantities of gas. The government has begun negotiations to purchase gas in various countries, including Norway, potentially – in the form of liquefied natural gas. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will provide the NAK Naftogaz with a loan of 300 million euros, the first 50 million of which will go to emergency gas purchases.
Ukraine also continues to transport Russian gas to Europe. Some Ukrainian and European experts have suggested that Ukraine stop transporting gas on its own initiative but doing so would put Ukraine in breach of commitments primarily to European companies and European consumers, and Russia would use any such act to accuse Ukraine of being an unreliable partner. Therefore, the Ukrainian TSO (Transmission System Operator) could only stop the transport if European companies first took the appropriate decision.
The Ukrainian route remains the primary route for transporting Russian gas to Eastern and Western Europe. Poland terminated its gas agreement with Russia on the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline in May 2022. Nord Stream 2 was completed in October 2021 but was not put into operation – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announcedat the press conference on 22 February 2022 that Nord Stream 2 certification had been suspended after Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement recognizing individual states in Ukraine. Russia uses the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline as a tool for political manipulation — gradually reducing the volume being transported through it, and blaming this on, for instance, the sanctions preventing Siemens from returning an overhauled compressor from Canada. By reducing gas supplies through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, Russia does not want to increase gas transportation through Ukraine. At the same time, the Ukrainian Gas Transmission System Operator has been proposing that gas flows be rerouted through Ukrainian territorysince the beginning of the war, as the Ukrainian pipeline has free and Gazprom-reserved capacity. Unfortunately, neither European companies nor Russia have listened to or discussed these proposals.
Strengthening the sustainability of Ukraine’s energy sector in the medium term means large business investments and further integration into the EU energy sector.
Ukraine needs an EU policy that will enable it to receive aid but also allow it to become an equal partner. This means creating the conditions for the energy sector to become more liquid and generate more electricity. The EU can help to increase electricity exports from Ukraine and avoid creating obstacles in the form of CBAM regulation for Ukraine.
It also means that the EU and US governments need to develop policies that will help attract foreign investment in electricity generation in Ukraine. Ukraine will not be able to offer a new set of programs to support renewable power generation, due to the lack of liquidity on its electricity market and high level of energy poverty (which will increase even further after the war). As Ukraine can’t develop support programs for the renewable sector on its own, the EU countries can help in this.
Also, Ukraine — as a candidate country for EU membership – can be recognized as a full member of the European Green Course and gain access to European funds. Ukraine has clearly defined the goal of decarbonization and must achieve this goal from a much more difficult starting position than any other EU member state. The possibility of receiving additional financial support will allow the country to make swifter progress in this direction.
Increasing energy efficiency is a policy aim that would be supported by any government and all consumers. But improving energy efficiency will require many more mechanisms (for households, cities and communities, and companies) than currently exist. And these mechanisms must be very simple and transparent. The EU can help both in the development of such mechanisms and by providing the necessary funds.
In the gas sector, Ukraine must remain the main transit country for Russian gas – and Nord Stream 1 should be stopped. It is already clear that the transport of Russia gas through Ukraine has an inhibiting effect on the level of Russia’s armed aggression – and will continue to do so, at least so long as Russia remains interested in exporting gas to the EU. Ukraine does not manipulate technical problems for its own purposes, as Gazprom does with offshore gas pipelines. Also, Ukrainian gas storage facilities should be made a fully-fledged part of the EU’s energy security architecture — European companies should store gas in them for the winter, and EU regulations should provide for this. The EU can also provide funds to increase the capacity of interconnectors between Ukraine and Poland and Slovakia. This will ensure better gas flows between countries and the ability to respond to crises more quickly.
Moreover, if the EU is seriously thinking about granting EU membership to Ukraine in the future, Ukrainian politicians and government officials can already start to attend meetings and discussions of EU energy policy — for example, meetings of energy ministers. This would allow a better understanding of EU priorities and a faster synchronization of Ukraine’s and the EU’s energy security policies in the future.
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